When chicken wire and tissue paper are in demand around State College, it can only mean one thing: It’s time for Penn State Homecoming.
All that wire and paper is put to good use by dozens of student organizations creating elaborate floats that are among the highlights of the Homecoming Parade, just one of many events that are part of this past Penn State tradition. Since 1920, Penn State has welcomed alumni back to campus to join with current students and the entire University community in this celebration. While Friday’s parade and Saturday’s football game against Northwestern are two of the more visible Homecoming events, there are dozens of activities and programs held throughout the year that lead up to this week.
Here are 10 things you should know about this year’s Homecoming celebration:
1. Carrying on: “Honor the Purpose, Carry the Pride” is the theme for Homecoming 2014. You can get a behind-the-scenes look at Homecoming preparations, including the theme selection, in this Penn State News story.
2. ‘Morning’ glory: The 2014 Grand Marshal is Lara Spencer, co-anchor of “Good Morning America” and a 1991 Penn State graduate. Spencer showed her true colors on a recent broadcast of the morning talk show when she sported a Penn State sweatshirt and kicked a field goal in her bare feet during a segment on the start of the college football season.
3. Over the moon: Michael Paul, the director of Penn State’s Lunar Lion mission which is working to launch and land a spacecraft on the moon, is this year’s Honorary Grand Marshal. Paul is a space systems engineer at Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory and is leading a team of students, faculty, and staff who are helping a group of Penn Staters reach for the stars.
4. ‘Pomp’ and circumstance: Google “pomping” and “penn state,” and more than 1,500 hits pop (or should we say “pomp”?) up. (Which, for the record, is more than that other Big Ten schools we tried. Just an observation.) Pomping is what you do when you twist tissue paper into chicken wire in parade float construction. You can see the results of hundreds of hours of pomping on display during this year’s parade, which steps off at 6 p.m. on Curtin Road by Pennypacker Hall. The parade route, information on the livestream, and details about the line-up can be found on the Homecoming website.
5. More than a game: While the Nittany Lions hope to continue their winning streak this weekend at Beaver Stadium, this week’s Homecoming schedule includes an ice cream social, a talent show, and a carnival.
6. Family affair: More than 631,000 alumni make up the Penn State family. If all of them came to Homecoming, they would fill Beaver Stadium (107,282 capacity) – and Michigan Stadium (109,901) and Ohio Stadium (104,944) and the University of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium (102,455) and LSU’s Tiger Stadium (102,321) AND the Crimson Tide’s Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821).
7. People power: Nearly 400 student volunteers are involved in planning and hosting Homecoming-related events throughout the year.
8. Here’s the scoop: The flavor of the week at Berkey Creamery is (wait for it) … Alumni Swirl. In honor of the throngs of returning Penn Staters, the Creamery is featuring a signature blue-white flavor combination. This concoction blends blueberry swirl into vanilla ice cream studded with Swiss mocha chips. Our taste test: This one does alumni proud.
9. Hail to the lion: The annual Guard the Lion Shrine event is sponsored from 9 to 11 p.m. Friday. The event includes entertainment, food, and other activities, including Penn State ROTC volunteers standing guard to protect the shrine from any Northwestern Wildcats who may be foolish enough to cross its path.
10. Walking on sunshine: As of this writing (Wednesday, September 24), blue skies and sunshine are in the forecast for this weekend’s festivities. With Saturday’s projected high projected to be a summery 80 degrees, we’re going to give some credit to Penn State’s meteorology department for that!